East Cape Lighthouse in Gisborne: the first city to see the sunrise

Part 3 of 3 series.

This was our last leg in our Christmas – New Year roadtrip. We chose this as our New Year destination because this is the first city in the world to see the sunrise, which is at the easternmost tip of New Zealand.

East Cape

We initially planned to stay in this area for four days starting 30th of December and catch the sunrise of New Year in the Lighthouse. We were gonna stay in Te Araroa Holiday Park which is an hour away from our point of interest. After a long drive from Rotorua, we finally reached our accommodation by mid-afternoon and were just looking forward to rest and lie down in our beds. My sister already warned me that we’ll just stay in a bunk room (not even a cabin), so okay, I’m ready with that, I thought, as the place is already fully booked. It was cheap actually, but we got what we paid for. The entrance driveway looked promising but then as we explored the camp grounds and were led to our room, we were confronted with a tiny, dreary bunk room. We found the common facilities (showers, toilets, kitchen) dull and dated and in need of a good tidying up. We didn’t even reach the beachfront as it was still a long walk from the site. When we saw the state of the place, we decided not to stay any longer. (I did not even take any photo of it because I was just too disappointed).

Te Araroa

Anyhow, we somehow got our adrenaline back because of our dissatisfaction so we decided to push our way to East Cape Lighthouse. Never mind if it’s not the sunrise.

Like I said, you need to work hard for all the pretty sights you want to reach. The lighthouse is another 22-kilometre, mostly unsealed and unpaved road from Te Araroa which takes you to the most easternly portion in the North Island of New Zealand. It reminded me a lot of our drive to Fletcher Bay in Northern Coromandel. That was just a rehearsal for this trip. The gravel road goes along the eastern coastline with stunning views. There are some stretches that require extra care in driving. Oh, keep an eye out for cattle wandering around the area.

The lighthouse stands 154 metres above sea level on Otiki Hill and can be accessed by a walking track of about 700 steps. Definitely worth it for the views at the top! You can walk around the lighthouse, but the lighthouse itself is not open to the public.


Thanks Paola the car and Paola the sister / driver / travel buddy!


So we lasted for only one night in our shabby accommodation. What compensated for me I guess was the stars that night. I could clearly see those millions of twinkling stars from the window of our room. I think I even saw some shooting stars. I was sure I wasn’t dreaming.

East Cape Lighthouse in Te Araroa is approximately 170+ kilometers from Gisborne. It is well known to be the first city in the world to see the sunrise each day and it was also the first place in the New Zealand to be set foot on by Europeans when Captain Cook arrived in the 1700s. It was good to have visited this historic place of NZ.

Not all things go as they planned, but it’s all good. We ended up spending the New Year in our home in Wellington. It was great to be back after an amazing, crazy, memorable North Island roadtrip!









2 Comments Add yours

  1. cprouzos says:

    Beautiful! I must get over to NZ soon – it’s so close to Aus!


    1. aliaslibby says:

      You should! Me, on the other hand, would want to go to Aus! 🙂


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